Scientific Name: Geochelone sulcata
Lifespan: up to 70 yrs.
Diet: Grass, hay flakes, clover, & edible flowers
The African Sulcata Tortoise is also known as the African Spurred Tortoise, is the 3rd largest land tortoise in the world. Not only do these tortoises grow very large, they grow very rapidly – up to two and a half feet long and 80-110 pounds or more. Distinct features include: broad, flattened carapaces, which are brownish or yellowish in color and two or more very large and prominent spurs, which serve no observable function, on the back of their rear legs.
They are native to the hot, arid regions of Africa. They range from the southern edge of the Sahara down through Senegal, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Chad, the Sudan, and Ethiopia, up through the Massaua coast bordering the Red Sea. They do not do well in damp, wet, or cold conditions.
These torts are active and like to burrow, climb and roam about, often in search of food. They are extremely strong animals and have been known to break down fences and even walls. Both male and female can be aggressive. When males reach maturity (roughly 14 inches in carapace length) they will ram into other males and attempt to flip them over.
In the wild, reproduction occurs after the rainy season – September through November – but can occur anytime from June through March. Males typically become very vocal during mating. As the eggs are developing inside the female, her appetite will decrease. She will become restless as she begins to roam looking for a suitable nesting site. She may excavate several nests before she selects one. The female will dig a large nest, approximately two feet in diameter and several inches deep and deposit a clutch of 15-30 eggs. After all the eggs are laid, the female will fill in the nest with the soil and sand that was excavated. The eggs incubate for about eight months. Hatchlings will emerge from the nest and will be 1½-2 inches in carapace length and weigh less than one ounce. They are aggressive and active, bull dozing into almost anything that’s in their way.